Monday, 19 October 2009

There'd be some kind of jousting, clearly...

I keep an eye on LGBT and bi references in Hansard through the magic of Google alerts. One that only made it in through my general LGBT filter was this response to a question tabled recently:

"Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, House of Lords; Labour)

The Permanent Secretary and other members of the Northern Ireland Office's departmental board volunteered to be diversity champions for underrepresented groups in the NIO. This supports the NIO's strategic approach to improving diversity and equality in the department. There are board-level champions for lesbian, gay and transgender staff; black and ethnic-minority staff; disabled staff and staff with caring responsibilities. Two members of the board also co-chair the NIO's Diversity Steering Group."


Now, is that an inadvertently missing "b" word there, or has the NIO had problems recruiting a bisexual champion? I think we should be told - and that a champion bisexual for Northern Ireland clearly needs to be found!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Strictly Homo Heroes?

Local LGB project Lesbian & Gay Foundation this summer launched an eyecatching (they have lots of money and people for image work) campaign to nominate "Homo Heroes" this summer. Despite the brandname we're invited to name our L,G,B,&/T hero and pose holding a sign with their name on for a photo gallery. After considering a range of possible nominees I joined in, waving a placard with Paddy Ashdown's name on it: straight, cis people can be LGBT community heroes too.

The project reaches its next stage today with a push for donations. It cites support from
"Beth Ditto, lead singer with The Gossip; Sir Ian McKellen, actor Lord of the Rings; Russell T Davies, producer and chief writer of Doctor Who".

So far as I'm aware that's two gay men and a lesbian: sadly this is not so surprising, but the lesbian voice is Beth Ditto. Beyond being a minor-league popster, Beth is probably most notable in LGBT politics for her biphobic comments about Angelina Jolie (to the effect that if you're not in a same-sex relationship, even if you have been so in the past, you're straight).

Come out, come out, and admire the guidance of this biphobic person as you do so? No thanks.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Quizzed

I'm skipping the bisexual activism weekend in Leicester this weekend as I'm a bit worn down and burned out still; so naturally I take time off by being interviewed for a documentary on being bisexual in Britain today. Funny the definitions of relaxation activism gives you :o) It helps that my interviewer is rather gorgeous, though I don't know that til they show up, so I really am doing it as a peculiar way to unwind.

Most of the questions are the usual kinds of things: how bi do you have to be to be bi, do you get more prejudice from the gay or straight worlds, and such. I start well and then become more waffly in the later questions: I need to do this stuff more often. One iussue which I hadn't pondered in a while was about it being harder for people to accept being bi - the situation of straight people saying "well, it'd be easier to understand if they were gay". I don't have a simple, sane answer for this one figured out yet and will have to work on it!

An hour of chatter and it's over, so naturally I'm bubbling with ideas for who else documentary makers ought to talk to for angles on bisexual life. Talking about this stuff from the basics up is actually a great way of stimulating your own interest and ideas too: I should line up an interviewer to quiz me ahead of each new BCN deadline to help with the creativity.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

15

Manchester's bisexual social-support group BiPhoria is fifteen this month. We'll have a bash this weekend to celebrate and to help reach out to more new people.

That makes us the longest running bi group in the UK that is still going - I'm not sure whether to be proud or sad about that. The "original" UK bi groups were in London and Edinburgh, in the mid 1980s. London's LBG fell by the wayside about five years ago and EBG in Edinburgh nearly a decade ago, though there's a new EBG which was set up a few years later. BiPhoria itself came out of a move toward joint working by a men's bi group and a women's bi group, both of which closed down in the 1990s.

Overall the network of bi support and social organisations is flourishing in a way it has not done for some time: new groups springing up in Swansea and Cardiff; Sheffield blossoming and more. But there's still no-one employed to work in or with the bi community specifically at any level, so the momentum may fade as quickly as it grows. Local groups that are sustained over time seem to depend on core committed activists who get something worthwhile out of carrying on.

So Manchester's fifteenth birthday reflects that a decade and a half ago I decided to set down some roots in the city, and that I had a personal investment in wanting there to be a strong bi scene so people who didn't fit the binaries well had a space to find friends and acceptance.

That's not all you need though: in helping get things like the Cardiff LGB youth group going, I'd made mistakes and learned basic skills in doing publicity and running group space.

That leads me to one of the areas where I think we often fail in getting bi groups up, running and then sustained. Someone will pop up and say "I want to run a bi group in Bloggstown" and we will simply encourage them to do so, maybe help with some flyers and websites or advice on how to find a suitable venue. If you happen to have the right skills for group work that's great, but if not it might be best to first find a local LGBT organisation and volunteer there for a few months: building your personal contacts in the community along the way but also getting peer support and advice first-hand. Until we organise bi group runners away weekends, of course!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Rebranding?

I’m not sure where it has come from, but I love the way bits of the internet seem to be slyly rebranding 23/9 as Bi Visibility Day. "International Celebrate Bisexuality Day" is a hell of a mouthful as a name, and a little nebulous as a concept: what do you do for International Celebrate Bisexuality Day ? Are you being celebratory enough? International enough?

Whereas Bi Visibility Day, you could sensibly mark with a bi resources stall in a bar or student union foyer, with flyering local gay or straight venues, with a balloon launch outside your town hall, or whatever.

The only downside I can see is where ICBD sounded like a type of Russian nuclear weapon, BVD sounds more like something you need to go to the clinic to get treated. But the shorter name will in itself be less in need of having a shorthand form.

We’ve had ten years of 23/9 being ICBD. I love the subtle shift in the name, and I think ten years on is a great time to start using a new name for the date that can inspire new forms of visibility activism.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

One step forward

As I wrote about few months ago, we for the first time had a bi segment at the local Town Hall's annual LGBT day.

The report has just come out, a six page glossy colour thing. Very shiny and pretty.

Half a page is on bi inclusion, drawn from the workshop :o) this can only be a good thing, putting about fifteen top tips in front of many people who work in and with the LGBT communities across Greater Manchester.

Otherwise the workshop reports are as bi marginalising as ever though - headings on "Lesbian and Bi Women" that lead to reports that talk exclusively about lesbians, and so forth.

But still: one step forward.

Monday, 31 August 2009

I turn on the box, it's like punk never happened

While the big Pride festival settles across Manchester for the weekend, outside the sprawling mass of the gay village there is a small 'free' Pride event in parallel.

Of course, like the NHS it's not free, simply free at the point of use and the ways the money get there are a bit more hidden away.

Part of the incoherent mission of the alternative event is to recreate the spirit of the 1990s when Manchester Pride in its various incarnations didn't have the gated area that exists now.

And fair play to them, they have got one bit of the 90s spirit right. Back in the 90s, Pride - or Mardi Gras as it was - never invited any of the bi groups running in the city to take part: sure enough, just as we weren't invited there then, we weren't invited to this rose-tinted take on 90s Pride now.

There are a smattering of things wrong with the big Pride, or things that you might equally do differently, but I do like that even if we have to pay for a stall, these days when Pride are putting on a parade or an exhibition, at last the bis are invited to the ball.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Paint the city purple

Manchester Pride kicks off and gosh, I've been going to them off and on for fifteen years now I think.

Back then there was no gated area and a consequently higher incidence of general homophobic abuse and knife crime and such in the village, it was a determinedly lesbian and gay event with the bis not on the posters or the guest lists.

Even a year or three ago, there were biphobic teeshirts on sale, and the only bi stuff on display was on the bi stall.

This year - records broken all around as four stalls have bi specific materials on them (BiPhoria, Lib Dems, Unison, Albert Kennedy Trust) and a smattering of people arrive at the bi stall who we've never met but who are variously wrapped in the bi flag, wearing pink-purple-and-blue dog tags, have Bi Pride wristbands or in one fabulous case wearing a checked dress in the colours of the bi flag. Awesome.

Of course that's still about a hundred stalls with no bi stuff. But oh, the difference in not being quite alone.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

BiCon went really well

I think there were about 230-240 people this year: very good for Worcester, where there isn't the kind of pool of local people that Manchester or London can soak up to boost attendance "on the day".

I'd put in to run two sessions, one of which was taken: the CoverBis session. I'm pleased to say we seem to have a good pool of pretty new coverbi images for BCN for the coming year :) It also seemed to go OK so far as putting photographees at their ease is concerned - wasnt sure how rusty I'd be as the last few years other people have led on this session.

The one not taken was on running local bi groups. Ah well, it's been done most years recently.

Monday, 17 August 2009

97... and 97A

Issue 97 of BCN is out just in the nick of time for BiCon - and 97A is back from the print shop too.

97A is the BiCon special which is a kind of 'taster' BCN that has developed over the last few years, with a mix of the best stuff from the magazine and things that it is particularly helpful for newcomers to BiCon to be able to understand ("what's polyamory?", "what is this LiveJournal thing?" and such). Along with a plug for september23.bi.org that I hope might inspire some more activity for this year's ICBD.

It started in 2003 as a simple sheet with local and national groups contact details and has grown to what I think of as a good mix - but feedback on it would be very welcome, especially from first-timers at BiCon. Preferably early enough before next BiCon that we can incorporate any changes :D

Saturday, 15 August 2009

BiMedia

Last weekend was edit the BCN site weekend, this weekend is fix the timeout bug on BiMedia weekend. Little by little it's getting there.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Colour schemes

The horrible thought strikes me that the BCN website currently has the same colour scheme as the new Tory party logo. Perhaps we need a disclaimer!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

BCN site: not really out of date

Lordy. Though the links and back issues have been kept up to date, on looking I see that it's two years since I last uploaded a decent set of content to the BCN website. Consider it a project for October this year.

In the meanwhile, I've put a couple of fresh articles up one there: issue 88's panel discussion about where the bi movement is going and how we should focus our energies, and issue 96's interview with the boss of Bisexual Butterfly.

And tweaked a couple of really dated bits - the bis in the media section is no longer written by the Bi Media yahoogroup collective (who are nowt to do with BiMedia.org, confusingly) as for the last year or two it's been either written by a couple of guest writers, or just as often but frustratingly not happened at all.

Enough wrangling for now. The rest of issues 87 - 96 will fill in later :) - well, it's not as if the site has gone horribly stale what with all the things coming through on the news feed from BiMedia.Org.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

It's out... so next...

The latest BCN is now out in the mail to people - it's been a slow drip, drip of stuffing and mailing due to other commitments this week. Very pretty it is too, if I do say so.

The ideal target now is to have two more in the next month - a general one, and a BiCon special. I'd like this Special to be a bit more eyecatching than usual, and we've some interested advertisers (or should I say interesting advertisers, oh what lovely lovely advertising people helping cover the cost of making the BiCon Special), but it will need a fair bit of work. And I'm quite tied up already with Prides and my 18th* birthday to attend to.

One thing I'd like to do is have a CoverBis photo shoot. There'll be one at BiCon but one beforehand might be useful too. Volunteers c/o the usual contact places please! :)




* fcvo 18

Monday, 13 July 2009

Piece of cake

I do wish Oldham LGBT Pride wasn't always on my damn birthday. I might go otherwise.

Though this year it does have this cake motif going on: a cake with five slices that are supposed to represent...

Slice 1: lesbian and gay
Slice 2: bisexual and trans
Slice 3: older and younger
Slice 4: black, Asian and minority ethnic lgbt and disabled lgbt people
Slice 5: LGBT Families and Friends, Families and Supporters

Now, I'm not lifting a finger to make this event happen and so my criticism comes with precisely that much importance I know. But my first instinct was, shouldn't those latter three be layers of the cake - about five layers in fact - and the first two instead be the four slices?

Or do you get extra cake for being genderqueer and bi, or Asian and gay? Perhaps it's cake as a consolation for oppression. Which, um, sort of works :)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Gah!

You find a new print house... you adjust to the new print house... the new print house hikes its prices up. Bah! Still more frustratingly, it seems the new print house had been doing these prices for about five years and we could have switched ages ago and had a shinier looking magazine.

Between that and the year-on-year rise in postage prices we can't really dither about any longer. BCN subs are going to have to go up in price. The original idea was that the unwaged sub loses a bit of money and the waged basic sub makes a bit more than cost. In practice I think we're losing about £3 a year on the waged sub now -- and would still be doing so if we went back to our old, slightly cheaper but harder to get to print shop.

People also get confused by the way a subscription runs for two years. Simple enough to combine the two problems into one solution: a lower amount to pay each time, but subs come up for renewal yearly instead of every two years.

Now, I must get the accountant in to go over the figures with me before we set the new rates. We have a lovely accountant and I owe her some hobnobs and tea I think :)

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

And now, in colour...

BCN is an amazing publication. Yes, I'm biased, but really, it's still here nearly fifteen years on and almost 100 issues notched up.

But it does have one major drawback in the modern media age. It's in black and white.

Now, I do not personally give a fig. My personal measure of how likely to be worth reading a comic is at first sight is whether it is in mono or colour - colour stuff tending to be bland mainstream pish whereas stuff in mono that is worth working hard to get out there despite that often being awesome - Hothead Paisan, Liliane, Sleaze Castle. And it's a nice bit of inverse snobbery to indulge in while ignoring that rule completely when reading, say, the Death comics.

But the masses they expect colour, and when you show them the most persistent high profile bit of your movement and it's a mono printed publication, some folks will turn their nose up. More fool them, wise readers will say, but to grow a bigger wider bi movement we need to look at how we can change some of those first impression perceptions.

This is one hell of a long preamble for the news that, fingers crossed, from issue 97 for one or two or three issues we will have a colour cover on the magazine.

Colour!

Woohoo!

It brings a new challenge though. Who or what the hell do we put on the front? Since I really got my feet under the table as editor rather than just continuing it as it had been done before we've had a long run of mono photo covers; we've had quite a range of faces from the community though too few boys amongst other matters. But colour... so much possibility, and so scary getting it right!

Suggested cover images and volunteer coverbis welcome...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Bad blogger

I am a bad blogger. I've just been too busy with bi activism, lefty activism, having a love-life, work and assorted lurgies to blog here. Which is a shame as there are some rather fun developments; I shall have to try and tell you all about them soon.

Friday, 12 June 2009

"We must engage with the bisexual community"

As I'm sure to have touched on before, the City Council here has a long and proud record when it comes to LGBT issues of engaging with and advocating for the lesbian and gay communities. They've had equal opportunities policies which specifically covered gay, lesbian and heterosexual people. They've had service monitoring and targets which looked at gay, lesbian and heterosexual as the available categories, and equal opps monitoring on job applications that asked if you were gay, lesbian or heterosexual with the other two possibilities ignored.

And this has been going on for years and years. Since the first half of the 90s at least from my own experience and from all I can glean, since they first started to engage with the idea that you might be straight.

So, having increased the pressure and visibility a little in recent times, we seem to be getting to some kind of a breakthrough. One of the leading bi-marginalisers in a position of power over the years went as far this week as saying, as speaker at a conference where I had been a speaker earlier in the day, that identity politics had moved on from the time of being all about lesbian and gay, and that "we need to engage with the bisexual community and we need to engage with the trans community".

Dangerous words. Much more of this and I might be able to take more time off from activism.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A rare fail for PinkNews

The pink media is all a-quiver about an upcoming Eastenders plotline in which an existing male Muslim character, who has a girlfriend, falls for an out gay man and wrestles issues of his sexuality and the rules set by of his choice of faith.

Naturally, it's all about "Eastenders to feaure gay Muslim story" (pinknews), "Eastenders reveal gay muslim storyline" (pinkpaper). Are they missing a blooming obvious word starting with "B" perchance? It's another great case of the power of cock (tm) - the way that a man may have as many mixed-sex relationships as you please but will immediately be considered gay in the mainstream press the moment he thinks about sex with another guy -- it's sexist, it's many layers of queer-phobic, it's stupid, and it probably reflects how much of the media is still controlled by people with willies.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

b-IDAHO?

Someone on an email list for another country's activists makes a point that chimes over here.

Whether IDAHO or the bastardisation I've seen around this year "IDAHOT": where are the bis? Are we treating it like Prides and queer conferences, a chance to fly the flag and get publicity and visibility through press releases, events or joining in at wider LGBT events to mark the date? Or are we carrying on our fine tradition of being invisible whilst padding out the crowds, the organising teams, the banner-carriers and so forth?

For once I get to be smug about it: this year's IDAHO weekend I was leading the bi segment at an LGBT conference. But if I'm honest most years it hasn't been like that; and BiMedia.Org's front page would change a lot more often if it had stories of a dozen bi things going on to mark the 17th of May.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

IDAHO

You know, I can't quite bring myself to join in the re-branding this year with IDAHO* becoming about homophobia & transphobia, making it IDAHOT, since the logical next inclusive step is IDAHOBBIT, and then the whole thing will sound silly.




* International Day Against HOmophobia, 17 May, the anniversary of homosexuality ceasing to be listed as a disease. Also I'm not sure blurring it works viz. whether trans is yet off the list...? (That's a genuine "dunno", here, not rhetoric)
I originally posted this as a comment over on Bi-Furious, but I wanted a copy of it over at my place too :)


I'm a little unwell right now so this won't flow as prettily as I might like it to but:

Binary things.

Black|White
Yes|No
Gay|Straight
Homo|Hetero

So screw the spelling of the word, "bisexual" inherently doesn't damn fit on a binary. It's the |Grey| or |Rainbow| mucking up the simplicity of black and white, the |Maybe|, the |Sometimes|, the |Either|And|. The most binary "bisexual" gets is to have this cover that might let it sneak in past binary thinkers' defences as a trojan horse to blow their whole simple one-dimensional world open.

The more I come across people trying to make out that my bisexuality undermines my genderqueerity, the less I damn believe it and the more sure of the exact opposite I get.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

g3 doubts

Oh my, g3 magazine has roped me into something (the usual "can we have a bi comment on...") and the email thread has in no time flat reached a reply that reads as transphobic to me. It happened once g3 got a photo to go with the words, so I think this is "your face doesn't fit our demographic".

I don't have the energy to argue it all out, and it's very noticeable that my main correspondent at g3 HQ hasn't chipped in with a "gosh that sounded a bit off colour, I'll have a word".

So many times in the last year or two g3 people have had me churn out words for them, then either never used something that they needed 'right now urgent'. When they did run something they have never sent me a copy so I had to get lucky with finding things in Clone Zone or what have you. With my volunteering background you tend to take this sort of thing on the chin, but when it is happening repeatedly and from an organisation with paid staff and the underpinning resources that that implies, it slides from human error to a culture of disdain for the little people.

It's been annoying, but I think this is where I stop being actively helpful with their odd requests. There are people who are in this to give and those who are in this to get; g3 never seem to be helping the community, just profiting from it.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Makeover

One BCN makeover at least partly complete, time to give BiMedia a spring-clean. I think it looks a bit smoother and newsier.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Speedy Bis

One of the reasons I started this blog was to record how much time bi activism soaks up. It's a terrible cliche to start talking about herding cats but really, so often it does work just that way.

So it was a delight last Tuesday to gather some people from BiPhoria and related circles together to talk about Manchester Pride and within an hour have a decision as to the theme of the bi entry in the parade, someone tasked with booking our entry, and even a plausible plan on how we will get a banner sorted out in the shortest time imaginable.

Add in about 45 minutes more for travel time, and doing that bit of planning took under two hours. Fab!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

LGBT....Q?

The word on the street has it that NUS' LGBT conference has voted not to change its name from LGBT to LGBTQ (...queer). There have been moves afoot to expand the remit to LGBTQA (asexual) as well, and indeed one to drop all four letters in favour of Queer, which achieves a rare feat of managing to offend large chunks of all four LGBT communities.

This kind of thing is of no immediate consequence. Internal battles in NUS consistently fail to change the world, whether in halting the decline of student funding or delivering peace in the parts of the Middle East where lesser influences such as sending over Bill Clinton or bombing the locals into submission didn't work. From the distance of being outside youth & student politics NUS does all just look like a training camp for New Labour MPs and a space for the faux-left to soak up potential activist energy away from anything that might lead to actual social or political change.

But as people graduate from NUS and move on into other areas of activism and life they tend to take a lot of NUS values with them.

Often this is not such a good thing, such as taking NUS double-dealing, partisanship and hackery into mainstream political life, but it does seem to have had an important positive impact in LGBT circles: viz, that when I was a student including the "B" of LGB was still mostly confined to students unions, while now a few generations of NUS hacks later the B and T have percolated out into most formerly LG organisations.

The downside of course is NUS LGBT has tended not to deliver so strongly for B as its other strands, and that has been reflected where groups went LGB/T, but at least we have the foot in the door.

But in turn that means that if NUS LGBT became LGBTQ or LGBTQA, in ten years we might anticipate organisations like Delga, LGF or Stonewall coming under increasing pressure to widen their remit.

All of which said, I don't (yet) buy the LGBT to LGBTQ argument. It seems to boil down to that people own different labels for the same thing - for example, people who are attracted to several genders but are shy of fighting biphobia (or have bought heavily into it themselves) and so want the Q label instead of the B. But that would be terribly inconsistent, as LGBT already misses out for example those lesbians who prefer the label 'dyke'. Are there really sections of Q who are not actually L, G, B or T?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Glossy

The new edition of BCN is our biggest ever (by 4 pages) and we've switched to a new print house. This means the paper is better quality and it's now on slightly glossy rather than plain paper. I really like the new look and feel!

It involved a bit of a gamble, a print house I've never used for any previous work that if it had gone wrong would have meant throwing away an issue's worth of print costs. We'd've gone to press about a fortnight earlier if I hadn't been angsting about it all.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

If I knew you were bi-friendly I'd have mailed a tenner

Over in the USA, Lindasusan has a nice little idea about "non-donation" cheques to send in to the fundraising arms of LGb organisations when they do pieces of work that marginalise bi experience.

Now, at an instinctive level, I like this. So long as bis are an invisible and silent group, we will never be seen as an activist pool / funding opportunity that is being passed up. A little pile of "I'd've sent you a tenner, you know" speaks volumes.

But I think I'd like it more if there were followup "here is a donation following your better work" alternatives, or even "I have donated €.... to bi organisation ____, it would have gone to you guys if I didn't feel so left out by your work." The latter especially: for most of us it's a whole heap easier to say you would have donated to something than to actually do it, so actively donating to BiPhoria or BCN or what have you is a much bigger statement.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

GLBT or LGBT?

One of the fine cliches of comparing life in Great Britain and the USA is that they are 'two nations divided by a common tongue'. I'm not going to get into a "how should Leicester be pronounced" thread here, but one of the differences between the two is that over there the common acronym for our communities is GLBT, whilst over here it's LGBT.

The American model kind of makes sense as a historic series of expansions. As the range of identities seen as core to our movement fragmented and acquired respect, Gay became Gay and Lesbian became GLB became GLBT.

The British one however has a peculiar hiccup. Gay became Lesbian and Gay, with the women put in front since within L&G spaces they tended to be marginalised and the minority, despite the hypothesis that there should be more lesbians than gay men in a country where the census records more women than men.

So you're putting the more marginalised group in the front of the acronym to avoid them getting dropped off, and people lapsing into talking about "gay" when meaning "lesbian and gay".

Then, just as across the pond, we add in the B and the T.

Only we add them at the end. The "you need to worry less about making sure you include these bits, people will just imply them" end. B got in there first so it's LGBT.

Which doesn't really make sense for two strands of the LGBT rainbow that have less visibility, credibility, accessible community, money, and so forth, than the lesbian strand. B and T folks clearly belong at the front.

Whether following the British logic it should be BTLG or TBLG could no doubt be a long and heated debate: I can see arguments in both directions though for me the fewer support groups and social spaces for B give it the edge.

By now we've been talking about LGBT for so long that the battle of which order the letters should flow in is long since over, but whenever people um and ah about going for the UK or USA ordering, I'd suggest you put the four letters in a Scrabble bag and pull them out one by one to decide.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fools seldom differ...

Or is it great minds thinking alike? I was just about to post here a request to readers who ponder the nuances of sexual identity, when I find that a rather similar point has just been made over on Bisexual Index.

I was going to say:
Can you point me at or offer me a meaningful differentiation between pan and bi, that isn't just about noodling the linguistics of the "b" words? Better yet something that doesn't need to justify pan by holding it up it against a negative, warped interpretation of bi?

I've read plenty of explanations that set up the straw man of "two-ness" in "bi", which - as well as being at best a peculiar interpretation of the B word - never seem to follow through on the implications of homo- or hetero- sexuality. I'm sure it can't all be about people dodging the bullet of biphobia through inventing a new word...
When I notice that Bisexual Index have just added a new entry to their FAQ on what seems very much the same point:

Bisexual isn't about there being only "two sexes"

Some people get hung up on the 'bi' and protest that gender isn't binary. In traditional dictionaries:

  • Homosexual is defined as "attracted to the same sex"
  • Heterosexual is defined as "attracted to the opposite sex"

So why then dismiss bisexuality as being about "men and women" when the definitions of hetero- and homo- don't mention those? In this modern age with a wider understanding of gender some would re-state those as:

  • Homosexual means "attracted to people of broadly the same gender"
  • Heterosexual means "attracted to people of broadly a different gender"

In fact many people say there's more than two genders, but if two options are either "the same as me" or "different to me" then we think it's clear that "both" can refer to those two options rather than two perceived sexes.

Bisexuality isn't an attempt to pigeonhole gender, it's the freedom to feel attraction without blinkers!

Well, quite.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The man from del monte...

....were a fabulous bisexual Manchester indie band of the early 90s and I commend their records to you. But that's by the by: today's news is that the Man from del monte says YES!

Or rathe tha man from Manchester city council, a mere four or five emails on, have asked whether I might be interested in running a bi session at their annual LG(BT) day. Hurrah!

Further they have extended the length of the sessions from last year's hour long to 90 minutes (eep!) and finally - it will run on the same day as London BiFest meaning I'll miss a second major bi calendar date in a row if I take up the invitation.

However... a door we in the Manchester bi community have been pushing at since 1995 at last starts to move.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The trouble is there's almost nothing out there

Hooray! ...ish.

NHS Barking and Dagenham have developed a website about LGBT health, and it has a bisexual section. This splits into five areas - four of which are links to broad LGB health advice on mental health, cancer, weight issues, and LGBT organisations in general (none of them are bi projects) - but one of them is a page specifically about bisexual health.

Which goes like this:
http://www.healthwithpride.nhs.uk/bisexual-health/general/

Some facts, figures and thoughts on bisexual health

Being bisexual is sometimes not easy, generally society can make you feel that you have to be either gay or straight but being bisexual is just as valid an identity as either of the other two and you should be comfortable being you, and if you identify with being bisexual then as your health is just as important an issue as for gays or straights!

There is very little research about bisexual health so I'm afraid this bit might be a bit short but you will find useful information on both the lesbian and gay pages for that side of your life.

It can be tough being bi but it can also be great fun and a perfectably normal and acceptable way to live so hang in there and try not to get dragged down by other peoples prejudice and pre-conceptions. It's always worth trying to find other bisexual people, even if only online to begin with. It often helps to bounce things around with people who have had similar expectations.

Here are a few useful websites on bisexuality:

www.bi.org – This is kind of the grand-daddy of bi-resources and is a great place to start.

www.serf.org – A server list for bisexuals, has a good FAQ section.

Now, hurrah that this content is out there, it shows that someone on the inside is trying and indeed succeeding. Brilliant. But how painfully it underlines the lack of bi health work; and gosh those links could be better couldn't they? Particularly the link to soc.bi: usenet isn't quite where the internet is at nowadays, and I say that as someone who still uses email software from circa 1991 rather than this rubbishy new-fangled Outlook/Thunderbird HTML mail nonsense.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Manchester city council marginalising bis again?

Each year my local city council holds an LGBT consultation day.

They call it slightly different things from year to year, and it's only I think last year and this that is has finally moved from being "Lesbian and Gay" to LGBT. Overdue perhaps but still movement in the right direction. So if you're reading at the Town Hall - thanks folks, I know how hard it is for a council with such a right-wing administration and so many issues of entrenched power to move forwards on anything and so this is a welcome change.

Trouble is, Manchester City Council on LGBT issues is a bit like many other organisations that have made the LG to LGBT jump over the past decade, doing really well on consciously working on T without having moved much on the B beyond changing the stationery.

Ten years ago whether in equal opportunities, service user monitoring or what have you, it was a matter of city council policy here that bisexuality did not exist. Bi people were in some kind of queer Schrodinger state, they might be indefinably either gay or straight but as soon as you looked at one you would be able to collapse their waveform into the one or the other. The council even produced EO monitoring forms with three tickyboxes to cover all possibilities on sexual orientation - straight, gay or.... lesbian. Gosh, there was me thinking that might have been partly covered on the just-two tick boxes for gender on the previous line.

Even in the early part of this decade, as the council set up a Local Strategic Partnership structure for the voluntary sector, it was fascinating to see that soon after the lesbian and gay LSP declared itself to be LGBT in response to the member organisations values, the council set about slashing and then abolishing its budget, making it the only one of the 29 streams of LSP work they have abolished.

Then after years of insisting that all queers were either lesbian or gay, the jump to LGBT happened. It seems to have been by grassroots insurrection: the council started a staff group for their gay and lesbian staff, which declared itself to be LGBT and kept putting the four-letter acronym on things.

The momentum had built by last year and thus the Lesbian and Gay Day became LGBT; but was noteworthy for having a series of speakers and workshops on lesbian, gay and trans issues and representing organisations whose work focuses on the L, G and T communities. Afterwards I got in touch and suggested once again that some B inclusion was well overdue and offering a speaker or workshop slot; to the degree of offering taking a day of unpaid leave from my day job at a busy time of year to make sure it could happen.

This year's event has just been unveiled. It's got plans for sessions on lesbian, gay, trans, and... erm... nope, that's all folks.

There's a surprise.

I shall be making enquiries, but I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sport?

I'm hoping to get to talk to someone soon about their dissertation project on bisexuality and sport. It's one of those things, like the depths of academia, where I don't have the first clue: I managed the enviable feat of being banned from doing sport in school for almost the whole of my time in secondary education and even the whole vast and varied range of sport has never managed to entice me in since I got out of school.

It's nicely topical at the moment as there are growing stirrings on tackling homophobia (at least...) in football going on. But it's also good to have things I know next to nothing about in BCN: I want a magazine that reflects a good swathe of bi life, not just my own urban activist take.

What doesn't BCN talk about that you wish it did?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Optimism

Saturday I had an excellent meeting with someone who wants to bring a play about bisexuality to Manchester. This was an example of my favourite kind of activism - it involved someone buying me lunch and cider. We had a really good long rambling talk and booked a venue so I now know there will be something bi going on over Pride week this summer which I won't have to take responsibility for organising. Brilliant.

Hope to sort out an interview properly with them for BCN in a month or three.

Sunday I finished stuffing BCN issue 94 into envelopes for mailing. Subscription numbers are up again, which is brilliant but means more stuffing work!

Friday, 6 February 2009

"As long as they were human..."

The attention-grabbing publicity release for the next issue of Diva has been picked up over on PinkNews, with a report that

(Molly from TV's "The L Word") Clementine Ford spoke exclusively to Diva about her sexuality. "The truth is that I’m not technically out yet," she said."There. Put that in your magazine. For me, there’s never been a distinction about anything to do with sexuality, so there was no declaration to be made. My siblings and I would bring home men and women, and as long as they were human it wasn’t a big thing.”

Now, is it just me who thinks there's a word starting with "B" for that one that perhaps just hasn't made it past the press release subedit stage? C'mon Clementine, get on out of the unlabelled closet and try this super-stretchy label for size.

Apparently the Proposition 8 ban on similarly-gendered people marrying helped prompt this declaration. Hmmm. Could it be as provocatively invigorating to queer campaigners over there as the Section 28 was over here?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ninety four, ninety five

Another BCN hits the presses, remarkably soon after the previous one but we are sort of playing catch-up. It's issue 94; we started on issue zero so we've done 95 editions now. I say "we"; until issue 32 all I did was write the odd piece now and then.

I flatter myself that this is one of the better looking editions: I still feel every square inch of paper should have "content" and have to wrestle my fear of whitespace, but I am at least becoming a bit more playful with layout and headlines. The writer roster is particularly impressive, with many more contributors than in a lot of recent editions.

The website is to my mind looking a little stale, but then I have spent rather a lot of time looking at it compared to any well-adjusted bisexual. It doesn't have any content from the last year or so and it would be good to get that online. The easy way would be to generate PDFs and put those online, but people who are happy being on the cover of the printed magazine and appearing in miniature on the website may be a bit more touchy about having super-hi-res colour versions of themselves their family or work colleagues might download and print. Adding back BCN content as individual pages takes rather longer.

Once this print run are mailed out (we have no mailing volunteer at the moment: anyone in Personchester in a position to stuff envelopes and put stamps and sticky labels on, and get to a post office reliably on an ongoing basis should drop me a note) I'll be spending a few days thinking about left-wing activism rather than bi stuff; but in the meanwhile thoughts on what might be in the next edition very welcome.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Better google ratings

Over on BiMedia.org the pages have until now been described by rather anonymous numbers like http://www.bimedia.org/?p=136. A bit of learning and tweaking and we now have much simpler page addresses like http://www.bimedia.org/136/bicon-makes-pink-paper-best-festival-shortlist-again - which some parts of the internets think will make for higher rankings on search engines like google.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Helping things along

Avid readers might recall a little while ago a student interviewed me about being bi as one of a host of interviewees for a play about bisexuality they were writing. That seems to be coming along well and I've encouraged them to take it to BiCon and/or Manchester Pride this summer. A few eager phone calls and emails this week and they have a meeting lined up to visit a prospective venue for performing here; I now have a weekend lunch date to check out the venue with them and generally catch up on how the project is going.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

LGBT History Month

It's about to be LGBT History Month again. The Februaries, they come around so fast.

Last year we put on something to mark the occasion in Manchester, local group BiPhoria hosting a talk about bisexuality and people who might be argued to be bi over the last 3,000 years. Two hours of academic lecture to an audience of 40 or so people, with refreshments and a few community information stalls from the projects that want to reach bi people (BiCon, BCN, local groups from around the country).

It was a great day, but notable that as the only bisexuality-focused event, it was the only LGBT History Month event in the city that Manchester City Council chose not to include in its published lists of events to mark the month. Plus ├ža change...

This year we won't be putting anything on. Sadly it seems no-one else will be either, though there was talk of something happening in London. Maybe the coming nine months or so could see a bi history resource built up - perhaps even a fun one - so that can change next year?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Getting past the burnout

I knew this was coming and for a year beforehand made sure people knew that I couldn't be relied on to give as much of my time to bi projects as in the last few years: now I've been surfing the crest of the activist burnout wave for the last six months for a variety of reasons. I'm just about the right side of that wave now but bear with me.

Or volunteer your writing, cartooning, photographing, and envelope-stuffing skills to help get projects like BCN motoring faster. Your bisexual activists need you!